Let’s hope this one sticks!

Written by | July 16, 2018

Trade Marks

The lawyers of Velcro Companies have released a second video responding to the huge public reaction to their YouTube hit ‘Don’t say VELCRO®’. With just over half a million views, the initial song both tunefully and compellingly highlighted that the term “VELCRO®” shouldn’t be used when talking about the above, but rather ‘hook and loop’.

The videos cleverly serve the purpose of protecting the brand by ensuring that the term ‘VELCRO®’ doesn’t become so distanced from the company that the trade mark becomes revoked. Although this might sound like a very distant possibility, the phenomenon has occurred several times with products the general public likely doesn’t know were once brands. For example, ‘Heroin’, ‘sellotape’, ‘trampoline’, and ‘hovercraft’ were once trade marked brands but have since become a part of general vocabulary. Velcro Companies is trying to avoid this at all costs, not just for themselves, but also for others – as the sobering words half way through the video say: “we’re doing this for all those successful brands that get so popular that people start using the brand names the wrong way”.

The consequence the lawyers at Velcro Companies are afraid of is called ‘generalisation’ whereby the brand name loses its significance of existence as a trade mark.

The hope for Velcro Companies is that now both videos have been well received, the general public (even if merely ironically to begin with) uses the term ‘hook and loop’ rather than ‘VELCRO®’ to refer to self-adhesive fasteners.

To find out more, Velcro Companies have created a mini-site with some FAQs and the videos here: https://www.velcro.com/about-us/dontsayvelcro/

Briffa comment:

In order for a brand to be able to trade mark their name, the word, acronym or otherwise must be distinctive. The spectrum of distinctiveness ranges from ‘fanciful’ which is a made up trade mark with no meaning and is registrable from the outset, to ‘Generic’ – the ‘common name of the product or service. When a brand becomes too big, it becomes the name of the product and therefore generic – meaning that it cannot continue to be registered as a trade mark belonging to the respective company.

The videos by Velcro Companies highlight a substantial catch-22 situation for those wishing to trade mark their brand names. Either companies can advertise and market their brand as much as possible, and risk generalisation if the name becomes too popular, or limit their advertisement and face losing potential future sales.

Brands like VELCRO® are fighting this process because without this trade mark, all the work that has gone into building a household and market presence whilst retaining profits from its popularity will disappear overnight. Registering a trade mark is a crucial step in building a company and can pave the way to securing a lucrative future for a brand.

Briffa advises on all aspects of copyright law and practice, including contentious (e.g. infringement) and non-contentious (e.g. licensing) matters. If you have any queries regarding copyright or any other intellectual property rights, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us and we will be happy to assist. We offer free 30-minute consultations to all new clients at our offices in the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

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